It would be so easy for me to just continue living every day as though it were every other day. After all… it is. But at the same time, I have the power to decide that it’s not. I just don’t use this power much, or often. Perhaps it’s because I’m afraid that I don’t have nearly as much power as I’d like to believe.
I was rereading a George Orwell essay. I Googled it by looking for “Orwell essay idea battlefield” or something like that. It’s basically about how easy it is for people to hold on to comforting beliefs that aren’t actually grounded in reality. I had read a couple of other things from friends, talking about the Trump presidency and how unsettling it is to discover that you were completely wrong about something. So many if not all of us participate in mass delusions. These are mostly harmless, until they’re not. As Sarah Constantin put it, if reality seems surreal, it’s because the stories that we’re telling ourselves about reality are wrong. And there’s something very unsettling and troubling about that.
But here’s the thing about most humans. We like it in Plato’s Cave. We’re comfortable there. We enjoy our delusions and defend them to the death, sometimes literally.
I don’t think that’s what I want. I think I want to be different. But that’s an easy thing to say. Lots of people like to congregate in little cargo cults that proclaim how different they are, how committed to truth and some other set of virtues, values and principles.
The only insurance is constant vigilance, coupled with a taste for careful contrarianism and disagreeableness. I think that’s what I want for myself.
Why? What is the point of seeking truth? Idealistically, it’s about a sort of self-enlightenment. Saying that feels so quaint and naive in 2017. Aren’t we all just making it up as we go? Don’t we all suffer from crippling cognitive biases that make it effectively impossible to grasp any sort of “real truth” for long?
That may be the case, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. Giving up is uninteresting. And I think I’m being marginally more honest when I say that I want my life to be interesting.
How interesting is my life right now? How can I make it more interesting? One good way is to publish interesting things in the newsfeeds I have access to. That will not happen much by accident – I have to be deliberate about it.
I left work today at about 615pm. I was writing the above for most of the journey. I bought some groceries, got home and made myself some pasta – which I’m eating now. Cracked open a beer. Talked to some friends while eating. I was listening to Terry Crews’ YouTube channel while I was cooking, and feeling grateful and happy. The meal I made for myself was nice.
I then sat at my computer, talked to a couple of friends for a while, and started feeling a little bit like playing video games. Another part of me can imagine just sitting here for the next 3-4 hours and then being sleep deprived. I want to sleep early. I want to publish a word vomit. At 27 – my second day being 27 – I want to start practicing making good decisions for myself every day. A part of me wants to indulge and make merry, but I know that I’ll be happier if I’m productive and get things done. If I move fast, I could even finish this, then shoot a few space aliens before bed.
Let’s recap. We were talking about truth-seeking, and the pursuit of interestingness, and about wanting to make better decisions. Where do we stand on those things? Truth is good. Interesting is good. Good decisions are good. I should be moving towards those things. I don’t always, why?
Without making excuses – because of old habits, because of patterns of behaviour, because of an enabling environment, because of the presence of distractions. At a meta level, up-stream, what is that? Lack of consciousness, lack of clarity. General tiredness.
I’ve written reams and reams about this at this point, and I’m not in the mood to repeat myself right now. Rather I want to leave little signals for my future self. I made an offer on Facebook today to mentor younger people, and I got a couple of messages from people which led to conversations that I enjoyed. I’ve been writing in a sealed bubble here for a long time, but there’s something wonderful about answering other people’s questions and helping them work through their issues.
It’s always easier to solve other people’s problems, isn’t it? And more fun, and more interesting. To help other people see their blind spots, to try and prepare them for what’s ahead of them, to give them little bits of information and context that hopefully helps them out.
I need to keep moving, keep making, keep doing things. A little bit every day. Sleep early. Breathe deeply. Relax. Meditate.
I also need to let go of my stress and anxiety that things aren’t going to be beautiful or perfect. They don’t have to be. I just want to make progress, a little bit every day. It doesn’t need to be done in a day. It might not even be done in a month, or several months. It might take a year or two years. I might work on it in bits and pieces. It may never be done. But that’s okay. I’m okay with that. It is okay to die, and it is okay to fail. We can let go of anticipating the reward, and just focus on appreciating and enjoying the process for its own sake. It’s hard, but it’s the right thing to do.
Also generally speaking I think I still can afford to get a lot more comfortable with getting rid of things and moving faster in general. I notice that if something is really important, I do remember it in some way, and can find it through some peripheral searching. It isn’t all that common that I get all worked up trying to remember something I can’t remember. And when that happens, I find some other way out anyway.